Analysis: 2022 Drug Launches Feature Record High Prices

Sean Dickson of West Health Policy Center discusses Reuters' analysis of drug launch prices.

New drugs launched this year hit record high prices, according to a new analysis. The median annual price of 13 novel drugs approved for chronic conditions by the FDA so far in 2022 is $257,000, according to Reuters. Additionally, eight of 13 drugs are priced at more than $200,000 annually.

In the Reuter’s analysis, the drug with the highest annual or one-time price is Johnson & Johnson’s Carvykti (ciltacabtagene autoleucel) for multiple myeloma at $465,000, followed by Alnylam Pharmaceuticals’ Amvuttra (vutrisiran) for polyneuropathy of hereditary transthyretin-mediated (hATTR) amyloidosis, a rare and fatal disease, at $463,500.

Other novel drugs priced above $200,000 annually include: Immunocore Holdings’ Kimmtrak (tebentafusp-tebn) for metastatic uveal melanoma ($430,000), Agios Pharmaceuticals’ Pyrukynd (mitapivat) for hemolytic anemia in PK deficiency ($334,000), Sanofi’s Enjaymo (sutimlimab-jome) for cold agglutinin disease ($280,000), Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdualag (nivolumab and relatlimab-rmbw) for metastatic melanoma ($273,885), CTI BioPharma’s Vonjo (pacritinib) for myelofibrosis ($257,160), and Novartis’ Pluvicto (lutetium Lu 177 vipivotide tetraxetan) for prostate cancer ($255,000).

"Unfortunately, the Reuters report confirms what we already know: that drug manufacturers continue to launch new drugs at prices that reflect their monopoly power, not the actual value of the drug to patients,” Sean Dickson, JD, director of health policy at West Health Policy Center, a nonprofit focused on lowering healthcare costs, told Formulary Watch.

“While manufacturers may claim that these prices reflect the small markets for drugs that target unique diseases, that’s still a price based on monopoly power — not on the incremental benefit to patients. Moreover, many of these drugs will likely be used for wider populations, but the pricing will still reflect the idea that the drug is limited to a small subset of patients,” Dickson added.

The recently passed Medicare negotiation provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act will help lower drug prices in the future, Dickson acknowledged, “but the trend of ever-higher launch prices suggests the need for additional policies that limit monopoly power abuses.”

The Inflation Reduction Act allows Medicare, which President Joseph R. Biden signed into law on Tues., Aug. 16, 2022, to negotiate directly for prescription drugs and caps Medicare patients’ out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 annually on some drugs, among other provisions.

Related: Webinar: Inflation Reduction Act Will Be Positive for Medicare

Defending the cost of its Mounjaro (tirzepatide) treatment for diabetes ($12,700 annually), Eli Lilly & Co told Reuters that “each person’s individual (health) insurer and plan will determine the out-of-pocket costs.” In addition, the company offers savings cards to reduce costs to as little as $25 a month.

While Reuters requested price data from all 15 of the companies that launched new drugs this year, six either did not respond to a request for price details or initially provided only partial information, such as a per vial cost, rather than an annual cost based on average patient use, the news outlet said.